Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts will be a free agent after next season, but if he wants to get paid he’s going to need to finish 2019 strong.
Much like many of his Red Sox teammates, Mookie Betts is having a rough go of it in 2019. We can all agree that this season has been the definition of a letdown. Boston is currently sitting in third place and are 7.5 games off of the division-leading Yankees. Betts was once the lifeblood of this team but now seems as if the magic has worn off.
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At the end of the 2020 season, Mookie will officially become a free agent unless a deal is reached beforehand. It’s always possible for the Red Sox and Betts to strike some new terms much like with Xander Bogaerts, but that will come down to how he recovers from his first half. With how this season is going for Mookie, that may be his best chance at getting seriously paid.
In the grand scheme of things, Betts isn’t having an awful season by how we judge most players. But Mookie isn’t just some average joe on a roster as he, at least last year, was among the elite. His name was up there in the conversations with names like Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for guys who are going to set contract records. 2019 is a far cry from the euphoria that was 2018 though.
With Machado and Harper, both making their homes in the $300M club this offseason, Betts is the next big name to come up on the board for free agency. That club feels like it may be out of reach for Mookie with how his play has been this season. It’s been a far fall for the reigning AL MVP but there is still time to charge back to the top.
In 2018, Betts put up an astronomic .346/.438/.640/1.078 stat line which helped propel him to MVP honors. Going into tonight’s game against Texas he’s carrying a .263/.383/.454/.837 which is a stark contrast to a season ago. He’s also seeing his RAR and WAR numbers down significantly from 108/10.9 to 27/2.8.
The thing that’s working in Betts’ favor though is that there is a lot of season left for him to get things fired up. I don’t believe that he can come close to repeating as the MVP but he sure as hell can once again become a strong force for the Red Sox. With October looking like it may be out of reach, a hot Mookie Betts can turn that all right around.
Betts has absolutely earned a major payday when the moment comes in 2021. If this season continues on the path that it’s going down though it won’t be even close to what Harper and Machado got. So was last year just a stars aligning kind of scenario where everything that had to happen did? Since debuting in the majors in 2014 Betts has posted averages of .291, .291, .318, .264, .346, and .263.
His spike last season was his career best as far as his batting average goes and was 28 points above where he had been at his previous best. As this season is progressing he is showing similar numbers to his 2017 All-Star season of .264/.344/.459/.803. So is this more of who Mookie truly is or has he just lost his groove? It’s hard to tell as we’re nearing the halfway mark of his sixth season and has multiple years at similar tiers.
As I said earlier though, it appears that the $300M threshold is slipping out of his grasp with each passing game. Bogey signed a 6-year/$120M deal this offseason which is the most the Red Sox have on the books for a positional player.
Betts will surely eclipse that number but if he doesn’t get things going I’m not sure by how much. I can see Mookie finding a home well into the $200M neighborhood but I don’t see anything above $250M. His potential and the pair of top seasons we’ve seen are going to be what keep him in the high-end market for his next deal.
It’ll all come down to what he does to finish this season though. If he can’t rebound then that number will continue to decrease and will most likely open the door for the Red Sox to lock him up for the long-term. If he storms back in the second half and looks more like the Mookie that we have come accustomed to seeing then we may see him get that bump in pay scale.
The second half of this season will be major not only for the Red Sox but also the future of Mookie Betts and his bank account. If he wants to keep pace with the other big names in the league then he’s going to need to be lights-out for the next four months. If he can’t turn things around then the big money boat may be sailing away from the dock as we know it.